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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

Chapter 20 - Public Policy In Other Countries - Sweden

Debate in Sweden

The Swedish vision of a drug-free society is so widely accepted that it is not questioned in the political arena or the media. The drug policy has support from all political parties and, according to the opinion surveys, the restrictive approach receives broad support from the public. For example, a survey in 2001 revealed that 96% were opposed to legalizing any drug that is classified. In addition, another survey in 2000 revealed that 91% were against decriminalizing cannabis use.[1][120]


The role of public opinion is central to understanding the attitude of the different political parties. Opinion polls show that a large majority of the people subscribe to a restrictive drug policy. The same polls indicate that drugs are perceived as one of society’s main social problems. The moral panic surrounding drugs is such, that no political party dares to speak out against any measures that may appear to move in the direction of a more liberal drug policy. Supporting the restrictive policy, or even asking for more restrictive measures to curb increase in the drug problem are essential for a political party to win votes. Saying the contrary, to back a more liberal approach, is not an option for a political party and would almost mean its political death. It has been pointed out that anti-drug pressure groups have been the driving forces behind influencing public opinion, and through them the political parties. It has also been shown that besides the social movements, the media have also contributed to the drug scare that exists today and the defining of drugs as a major social problem. [2][121]


Thus, the Swedish population in general has a negative view of drug use and is convinced that drugs pose a major threat to society. These themes have been advanced by government, the media and other organizations in Sweden, and others do not often criticize them. Scientists are generally the only group that raises doubts with respect to the current policy.


[1][120]  National Institute of Public Health, National Report: Sweden 2001, Stockholm, December 2001, page 14.

[2][121]  Boekhout van Solinge, op. cit., page 172‑173.

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